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Michigan ex

Oct 21, 2023

Jonathan Byrd testifies at the March 16, 2023 House Labor Committee | House TV screenshot

Former labor union president Jonathan Byrd was bound over for trial Thursday on one count of criminal sexual conduct.

Byrd served as president of the South Central Michigan AFL-CIO and director of external affairs for the Michigan Laborers’ District Council, of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA), until he resigned earlier this year when a report from a woman who worked in the same field as Byrd saying he assaulted her at an event came to light.

Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, filed the charge of fourth degree criminal sexual conduct in June, saying in a news release announcing the charges that the victim reported that at an event in Kalamazoo County in April, Byrd forcibly moved her hand onto his penis. Byrd was a powerful man with much influence in the state, creating “a significant power imbalance” between the woman and Byrd.

Nessel said in a June news release, “In the state of Michigan we will hold sexual predators accountable no matter how well-connected they are and irrespective of whatever prominence they enjoy in the dealings of our government.”

The woman months later reported her story to the police, but before she, Byrd and state Rep. Jim Haadsma (D-Battle Creek) had a meeting to discuss the April event, the Detroit News reports.

When asked about the meeting by police Haadsma said he acted as a mediator in the meeting and was “unaware of any physical advances” and “believed it to just be verbal in nature,” according to the Detroit News.

A group of Republican House members held a press conference in early May to call on House leadership to revoke Haadsma’s chairmanship of the House Labor Committee.

Rigas questioned what authority Haadsma had to “mediate” a conversation between a person accusing another of sexual assault and the accused.

“It seems clear Rep. Haadsma was working to cover up the deplorable acts of a union lobbyist to keep it out of the public’s view,” Rep. Angela Rigas (R-Caledonia) said in May. “Allowing him to continue to lead the House’s Labor Committee after this misguided and coercive action is unacceptable. Representatives have been removed from committees for far less.”

At the time, a spokesperson for House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) said there were no plans to revoke a chairmanship for Haadsma or interfere with the ongoing criminal investigation.

The next court date in Byrd’s case, which was bound over to the Kalamazoo County Circuit Court for a trial, is not set, but could be set next week, according to court staff.

Nessel put out a statement Friday saying her office is committed to protecting the rights of sexual assault victims.

“We will continue to seek accountability on their behalf regardless of how well-connected a preparator may be and irrespective of whatever prominence they enjoy in the dealings of our government,” Nessel said.


by Anna Liz Nichols, Michigan Advance August 4, 2023

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Anna Liz Nichols covers government and statewide issues, including criminal justice, environmental issues, education and domestic and sexual violence. Anna is a former state government reporter for The Associated Press and most recently was a reporter for the Detroit News. Anna is a graduate of Michigan State University.